How many here are working in a field they didn’t pursue in college? Hands up please! One, two, three…there is clearly a huge number. I am no different. It’s been three months since I graduated yet I haven’t picked my certificate or transcripts from my alma mater.
My father is disappointed, my mother is sad, my relatives are worried, while my engineering mentors and supervisors are confused by my decision. “Why did you waste 5 years in college only to switch careers?” “ Why would you move away from a safe career in engineering to the media industry , which is unpredictable? The last concern is genuine, I might be out of my job by the time you are reading this, that’s how unpredictable my chosen career path is, and strange enough that doesn’t scare me.
These are the first few months of my life as young adult, it is confusing and somehow terrifying period. I’m facing the quarter life crisis. Basically, the quarter life crisis is afflicts people aged 25-35. This is the period whereby you are struggling to cope with anxieties about jobs, unemployment, debt, relationships and the need to achieve a lot before hitting 30.
Last night, I was shooting breeze with a couple of good friends when this topic came up. To my surprise most of us have been in this crisis since we turned 22 years old and from the look of things my friends and I are far from getting over the quarter life crisis. Alright, I understand this is somehow confusing for you, how about you get comfortable so that I tell you all about my career crisis right from the beginning. Are you ready?
During my early years of schooling I dreamed of becoming a science professor or an engineer when I grew up. I am not sure this was entirely my idea, see if you were a bright student like I was back then, your parents and teachers gave you four main career choices; pilot, doctor, engineer or lawyer. These were considered to be the most prestigious careers. Careers in music, sports and farming were believed to be for academic dwarfs (hehehe its been long since I last heard someone use this phrase )
In high school I was still top two in my class, my love for physics increased in leaps and bounds. I would spend hours in the school library going through encyclopedias by the name ‘How it works’ since Google was unheard of. By form two pursuing Computer Science in college was every young man’s dream. I remember going to funkies with a 1GB Sahara flash disk conspicuously hanging from my neck. Believe you me that was akin to driving a Range Rover now. Rocking the flash disk meant you were techsavvy and the teenage girls loved it. It was during this period that I had fleeting thoughts of being an ICT expert.
During my final year, the Rotary Club members paid my high school a visit. They had different professionals in separate rooms showcasing exactly what the career entailed and gave advice to the young boys on how they could end up like them. I went to two stands, the first one was manned by a pharmacist.
I never had any intentions of pursuing a career in pharmacy. However, the lady manning that particular stand was more beautiful and sophisticated than my classmates and I had seen in a long time. I had only seen such ladies in movies. The only thing I heard during the whole presentation was that one had to literally sweat blood to become a pharmacist. I spent the rest of the time ogling at her enticing cleavage, her luscious purple lips and fantasizing about what lay beneath that tight dress. I’m sure several months after the visit many still had wet dreams about her.
The second stand I went to was manned by an engineer. A typical engineer, thick glasses, overgrown beard and mismatched socks! He made a PowerPoint presentation on what lead to the collapse of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attack. I was more than impressed by his intelligence and that moment I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer. I filled that as the first choice on my varsity applications.
December 1st 2008 was the day I joined Facebook and two other social media sites Mocospace and Cellufun. Back then, most parents would buy their kids a 2G internet enabled phone after KCSE, a sharp contrast to today when primary school kids have powerful 4G enabled smartphones. It is through Mocospace that I got my first virtual girlfriend, Leyla. The poor girl probably didn’t even know we were in a relationship.
I never met Leyla until years later but from her pictures she was more beautiful than Cleopatra and Amber Rose combined. I would spend most days and nights chatting with her. She would send emojis with every joke I cracked, which made me feel like the most humorous teen ever. Well this changed when she joined college and I was still stuck at home. Having passed my form four exams, I had to wait for almost two years to join campus on a government scholarship.
She dropped me and stopped replying to my texts all together since I was no longer cool. Never before have I been that heart broken. Luckily I’m not one to easily give up, I convinced my longtime friend Ndeti to let me use his profile to chat with the magical Leyla every Thursday evening. This went on well until one day I asked what happened to me and her (of course pretending to be Ndeti). She said something like, “Leave alone that retarded kid. His parents must be so disappointed to have such a dumb kid”
I’m not going to pretend, that night I cried myself to sleep. The following few months I pressed my parents day and night to take me to a deejaying school. They didn’t understand how all over sudden I had decided to switch careers from an engineer to a DJ. In all honesty I just wanted to be cool so that Leyla would accept me back.
Nonetheless, I joined college to pursue my bachelors in engineering. The first year was tough especially the drawing and calculus classes but I still managed to ace most courses. It was in my second year that reality hit me. All the perceptions I had about engineering before joining campus were not real. It was not as interesting and exciting as I had been made to believe.
It is during that phase that I penned my first blog, Is Varsity Education Really Worth It?, which was more of a letter to my family explaining to them why I had to drop out of college. I spent half of that semester swimming, hopping from one party to another and skipping my classes. I was lost, confused, trying hard to find a reason to continue with my studies.
This was one of the defining moments in my life. I realized campus was not really about what I learnt in class rather the experience and connections I made during my stay there. I went back to campus with a renewed sense of focus, developed my writing career and set up a few businesses although most failed.
This brings us to my current situation, I am a trained civil engineer working as TV & radio producer, and yes you heard that right! I love every minute of it.
Having undertaken my three internships in engineering firms, I realized that despite spending five years on campus pursuing civil engineering that’s not what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. I am a creative, I thrive in a fast-paced workplace where I tackle new challenges every single day. Civil engineering is somehow chilled. Most work involves crunching numbers and churning out drawings with little human interaction. In addition, for mega-infrastructural projects a civil engineer does the same thing for like three straight months.
I have made my decision, I will pursue what my heart wants and that is to touch lives and inspire more people to make a positive impact to the societies they live in through my writing, radio and TV.
I can’t count the number of times men and women who care about me have tried to convince me to ‘get back to my senses’. I will admit it, venturing into a field I didn’t pursue in college hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder what will happen if my bosses realize I’m not as talented as they think I am and sack me when I have already have a wife and kids. Will I wish I had picked the safe bet, engineering?
It is during these moments of doubt that I convince myself that even if I fail I will be happy with the knowledge that fear did not hold me back from going after my wildest dreams.
In retrospect, most people make their career choices based on fear of the unknown. They make safe bets citing job security and try to impose this on people like us. What they don’t understand is that you and I are different. We are making our choices based on hope and courage. We are non-conformists, rebels. We either win big or lose big, moderation is not our thing.
I’m saddened by how to this date most people still don’t understand that education is meant to open up our minds. Just because you pursued accounting in college doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest your life working as an accountant if you love doing something else.
I am one young man who is also terrified, yet wakes up every morning and goes after his dreams with full knowledge of what’s at stake. Are facing the quarter life crisis? Are you going to pursue a career because it is safe, your parents, relatives or mentors think it is right for you or because that’s what your heart truly desires?
Remember, life is not a rehearsal so think carefully before making your choice!
Written By Mark Maina